CCP releases few details on economic plans, defense law changes after annual meeting
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) Central Committee, its largest decision-making body, conducted a secretive four-day meeting in late October 2020 to establish five-year goals and a 15-year plan for economic and social policy, according to news reports.
Few details emerged after the annual CCP plenum. State media released a vague communique, leaving analysts to speculate beyond anything previously disclosed. A final five-year plan will be released in March 2021 when the National People’s Congress meets, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, pictured, demonstrated his intention to continue holding power as party chairman for life and his control of the People’s Liberation Army at the meeting, analysts said. The CCP emphasized the need to “carry out Xi Jinping thought on military strengthening” and mentioned the need to “uphold the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s army,” in the official summary, David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, explained on the project’s website.
The CCP tangentially acknowledged that it missed its goal of doubling gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, stating in the communique that the government plans to focus on quality for the next five years. It also stretched the timeline for achieving previous economic and technology goals by a decade to 2035, analysts explained. “It remains unclear whether a numerical growth target would be set for the five-year period when the plan is published next year. The party also made no mention of doubling GDP over the next decade but added that China will aim to raise per capita GDP to the level of moderately developed nations by 2035,” Reuters reported.
The CCP will promote self-sustaining growth through the “dual circulation” strategy introduced by Xi in May 2020. That approach relies on domestic suppliers and consumers in its first phase, later to be complemented by foreign trade and investment, AP reported.
“Growth is on track to be the slowest in the reform era, blunted by a trade war with the U.S. and the coronavirus pandemic,” Chang Shu, Bloomberg’s chief Asia economist, reported. “Technological, demographic and climate challenges call for strategic policy re-alignment touching many aspects of the economy.”
The CCP’s Vision 2035 program, reportedly discussed at the plenum, points to a greater role for the CCP in the private economy, James Palmer wrote in Foreign Policy’s China Brief newsletter.
The communique also noted that defense spending would increase in line with the economy, according to Reuters.
Ahead of the meeting, the CCP-run Global Times newspaper reported that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would amend its Law on National Defense to expand its purview to “conduct nationwide or local defense mobilization” when the PRC’s “development interests are under threat.” The current law calls for military activation when the PRC’s “sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security” are threatened.
The communique promised a “major breakthrough” on property rights, acknowledging the mounting inequality between rural and urban residents. “Under China’s communist system, all land is technically owned by the government — something that especially disadvantages rural landholders, who can see their property taken away at the whim of a local government, with little compensation,” Shannon Tiezzi wrote in the online magazine The Diplomat. “Whether this brief mention in the communique will result in real change to China’s land rights or simply more dashed hopes remains to be seen.”
The communique also stated the PRC’s goal of “maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau, promoting the peaceful development of Cross-Strait relations and the reunification [of Taiwan] with the motherland,” wrote China experts Jude Blanchette and Scott Kennedy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
In contrast, the communique from the CCP’s 2015 plenum stressed strengthening economic ties with the mainland and moving toward a “win-win” approach to Taiwan. “The blunt language on stability and reunification speak to the deterioration in Beijing’s governing of Hong Kong and its relationship with Taiwan,” Blanchette and Kennedy wrote.